BLM taps new Idaho manager

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Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning announced today that a career public servant with more than 20 years of agency experience will lead her Idaho office.

Karen Kelleher, currently the associate state director of BLM’s Arizona office since 2018, will take over next month as director of the Idaho office, which oversees 12 million acres of federal lands, or nearly a quarter of the total area of ​​Gem State.

Kelleher will take the reins of the state office in mid-March, replacing BLM Idaho associate state director Peter Ditton, who has served as interim state director since August after John Ruhs took over. retired from office. Ditton will return to his previous role as Idaho State’s associate manager, Stone-Manning wrote in an email to members of the leadership team.

“As we continue to rebuild the BLM, leadership has never been more important. That’s why I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Karen Kelleher as Idaho State Director,” said writes Stone-Manning in his email.

“Karen brings a wealth of experience to her new position as Idaho State Director,” added Stone-Manning.

BLM then officially announced the hiring of Kelleher.

Stone-Manning wrote in her email that Kelleher has recently held “key leadership positions,” such as “Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Deputy Deputy Director for Resources and Planning at Washington, DC, and since 2018, as the Associate State Director for BLM’s Arizona State office. »

Kelleher’s appointment is part of a concerted effort by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the Biden administration to bolster BLM’s workforce by filling positions that have, in some cases, remained vacant for years.

BLM Deputy Director of Operations Mike Nedd told BLM staffers in an email last week that President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget includes funds to “hire 600 additional staff in over filling our current vacancies” (Greenwire, February 9).

Stone-Manning told office staff last year that his top priority in 2022 was to “address staffing shortages” (Greenwire, December 21, 2021).

Some of those vacancies resulted from the Trump administration’s decision in 2019 to move BLM’s Washington-based headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, and shift hundreds of other positions out West. The move prompted at least 135 staff to leave the office in retirement or to work in other Home Office agencies.

Haaland announced last year that she was canceling the BLM move – which was completed in 2020 – and relocating the national headquarters to Washington. The Grand Junction office is being converted to a western hub.

In addition to overall staffing, BLM has worked to fill several state director positions currently held by acting directors.

The office announced last month that Andrew Archuleta, a 15-year career employee, would take over the BLM Wyoming office, which manages 17.5 million acres of public land and 40 million acres of underground mineral properties ( Greenwire, January 27).

Archuleta will take over the office from BLM Wyoming this month, the office said.

With Kelleher’s appointment, there are now four acting administrators among BLM’s 12 state offices.

Announcements are expected in the coming weeks for permanent directors in Alaska and New Mexico, followed by Colorado and the Montana-Dakotas office.

Stone-Manning wrote that she and Nedd “would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Ditton for his continued leadership” while leading the Idaho State Office as interim director.

A varied career

Kelleher had a long and varied career at BLM, including as manager of the nearly 500,000-acre Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona.

She has been involved in major policy issues over the past few years, including the management of sage-grouse.

The issue is among the most controversial public land issues, as the sage grouse occupies a huge 11-state range covering millions of acres of federal lands managed for multiple purposes.

While serving as assistant deputy director for resources and planning in 2017, Kelleher was appointed coordinator of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s sage-grouse review team, who eventually recommended significant changes to the Obama-era sage-grouse protection plan that was finalized in 2015.

Nedd, the BLM’s deputy director of operations who was the bureau’s acting director at the time, appointed Kelleher to the post of coordinator in June 2017.

Zinke’s successor, David Bernhardt, approved changes to Obama’s plans in March 2019, including a number of provisions making it easier to drill for oil and gas or conduct mining activities in sensitive grouse habitat. . The changes have sparked years of litigation, a federal judge’s order blocking changes from the Trump administration, and now, under Biden, a new effort to review and likely revise sage-grouse management plans finalized in September. 2015.

Among the most vocal critics of Trump’s revisions were Stone-Manning, who was then a senior conservation policy adviser at the National Wildlife Federation, and current BLM Deputy Director of Policy and Programs Nada Culver, who was at the time Vice President for Public Lands and Senior Policy Advisor to the National Audubon Society.

Last fall, BLM reopened federal grouse management plans and will likely update them to address growing threats to the bird and its habitat from climate change, wildfires and the spread of species. invasive, among others (Greenwire, November 19, 2021).

As early as 2007, Kelleher was a field manager in the Wenatchee field office at BLM’s Washington-Oregon State office.

She then served as Director of BLM’s Anchorage District Office in Alaska.

Kelleher earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Union College in New York and a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University.

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